December 2004

Chris Zammarelli

banned bookslut

There is Nothing Special About Evolution

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

Approved by
Cobb County Board of Education
Thursday, March 28, 2002

This sticker appears on textbooks in Cobb County, GA schools. A group of parents, backed by the ACLU, sued the school district, arguing that the sticker endorses religion in public schools, a violation of the separation of church and state.

Part of the problem is that the sticker "gives the impression that it's a very shaky theory," according to Kenneth Miller, author of the biology textbook used in the county's schools. He also said, "Evolution is as well grounded as our understanding of cell biology or human physiology."

However, there are many who don't view evolution as solid science. Said Marjorie Rogers, "It presented it just blatantly. Evolution is a fact. It did happen. I was outraged." It was her petition that helped get the stickers placed on the books in 2002.

The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that each state must review its respective standards on science education guarantees that evolution vs. the theory of intelligent design will be scrutinized constantly over the next couple of years.

Intelligent design postulates that life forms are so complex, only an "intelligent force" (i.e. God) could have created them. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism violated the separation of church and state, intelligent design became a popular alternative. The intelligent force isn't explicitly defined when the theory is taught.

Dover, PA was the first school district to require intelligent design be taught, prompting two board members to resign in protest. Since then, the Ohio legislature passed a measure that endorsed teaching evolution and intelligent design side by side, while a school district in Wisconsin requires the teaching of alternative theories to evolution.

The war over school textbooks goes beyond science versus religion. Last month, the State Board of Education in Texas forced publishers to change the wording of health textbooks to better intimate that marriage is only between men and women. Board member Terri Leo said that the books' use of the word "partner" suggested that gay marriage was legitimate.

Moreover, the war between science and religion goes beyond school textbooks. Staff at the Grand Canyon became upset when the independently operated bookstore carried a book that suggested the Great Flood created the canyon in its natural science section. In response to their complaints, the store moved the book to its inspirational reading section.

One of the big stories to come out of this year’s presidential election was the support President Bush received from Evangelical Christians. Conservative Christian organizations plan to use their newfound political muscle to take on the entertainment industry, said Culture and Family Institute director Robert Knight. It wouldn't be too much of a jump in logic to assume that they would also take a closer look at what is being taught in school.

As of this writing, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper has not handed down a decision in the suit over the evolution theory stickers in Georgia. Suffice to say that no matter what his ruling is, the decision isn't necessarily going to decide anything.

If worse came to worse, the ACLU could propose a second sticker on textbooks that said, "Intelligent design is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things."

Incidentally, I have a new weblog called Censoround, which covers news about book challenges and other free speech issues. I have a feeling I may need to brush up on my Mencken for 2005.